Invasive trees in North Carolina to watch out for: list

Invasive trees in North Carolina to watch out for: list

Bradford pear trees may draw a lot of attention among invasive plants because their fetid blooms attract attention each year, but there are other problematic trees in North Carolina, wildlife experts say.

In addition to being a nuisance to gardeners and homeowners, encroaching trees can damage ecosystems and pose a health risk. However, if you spot an invasive tree on your property, you can also take steps to free up your space and curb the spread.

Here’s what you know about invasive trees in North Carolina and what you can do about it:

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “plants, animals, and other living organisms” introduced into ecosystems where they are “non-native” or “alien” that “causes or is likely to cause economic or economic impacts.” “ Environmental damage or damage to human health.”

Invasive Trees in North Carolina

In addition to the Bradford pear, there are other invasive trees threatening North Carolina, the state forest service says, including:

  • Tree of Heaven, also known as Ailanthus altissima: This tree, native to China, has “aggressively naturalized in many parts of the United States and all areas of North Carolina,” according to the NC State Extension. “The leaves are the best way to identify this tree, as the large compound leaves have a glandular, crenate base on each leaflet, and the serrations or teeth on the margin toward the base of the leaf are visible,” the addendum says. “Large clusters of yellow flowers appear over the trees in spring, followed by winged fruits that are scattered by wind or water.” You should try to pull them out “when young, before they bloom, and hold them by the prongs.” seen near the base of the leaf.”

  • Silk tree or mimosa, also known as Albizia julibrissin: This tree is also native to Asia but has been present in the US since the 1740s, according to the NC state. They are a “fast-growing, short-lived, small to medium-sized deciduous tree” and are “typically found along roadsides, grasslands, vacant lots, clearings, or flood plains.” “It grows vigorously and can displace native trees and shrubs,” the extension says. “It produces large numbers of seeds and will germinate again if pruned or damaged. Because of its ability to grow on different soil types and large seed production, it is a strong competitor for native species in open areas, along roadsides and forest edges.”

  • Chinese tallow tree or popcorn tree, also known as Triadica sebifera: Native to Asia, this tree was first found in South Carolina in the 18th century before spreading to other parts of the South, including North Carolina. “The flowers are monoecious, long yellow-green catkins that develop into fruit that burst open to release white popcorn-like seeds,” the addendum says.

How to stop invasive species

If caught early, NC State professor Kelly Oten previously told the Observer that “response programs” could be launched that could eradicate potentially invasive species before they do more damage to the ecosystem.

To aid in this process, Oten recommends that you take a photo of the pest or plant you spot and report it to the appropriate authorities, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and You can also email

You can also look into invasive plant removal services like NC Bradford Pear Bounty.

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Mary Ramsey is a service journalism reporter for The Charlotte Observer. Originally from the Carolinas, she studied journalism at the University of South Carolina and has also worked in Phoenix, Arizona and Louisville, Kentucky.
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